There is no such thing as a safe place to hide for those who cross Nursultán Nazarbáyev, the President of Kazakhstan. The 76-year-old oligarch has slowly (but surely) managed to find numerous opponents who have wronged him in the past and bring them back to his rule of law.
On the 31st of May, armed police broke into the residence of Alma Chalabayeva in Rome, and arrested her and her 6-year-old daughter under the pretense that they were using fake documents, an accusation that was shortly revealed to be untrue. The Italian government had, in reality, been asked to find Nazarbayev’s biggest opponent and husband of Alma, Muktar Ablyazov. Ablyazov, accused of taking part in a substantial fiscal fraud involving millions of dollars while he was President of the Kazakhi BTA Bank, had disappeared when he had been sentenced to 22 months of prison in the United Kingdom, where he had previously obtained the status of political refugee. After their arrest, the wife and daughter of Ablyazov were extradited and taken to Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. It wasn’t until recently when Ablyazov was arrested in France by the French special forces, under the request of Ukraine, where he may face extradition.
What is more, Ablyazov’s former bodyguard, 37-year-old Alexander Pavlov, was arrested last December in Madrid after he had been on the run for the same reasons as his boss; Pavlov was accused of participating in the same 22.5 million dollar fraud as well as planning a supposed terrorist attack that never occurred. Pavlov requested political asylum from his cell in Spain, but despite his lawyer’s best efforts, was extradited back to Kazakhstan. Various NGOs and experts warned the Spanish government that allowing the extradition of Pavlov would put his life and health at risk once he was back under Nazarbayev’s rule.
Many have questioned the irregularity of these arrests, and the role of Spain and Italy. The circumstances and the motives for the extradition of Ablyazov and Pavlov were more than murky, given the rampant corruption in Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan is the sixth-richest country in natural resources, due to its abundance of uranium, petroleum, cotton, hydrocarbon and various other metals, and is growing at a remarkable rate, to the point where it has become a very attractive for Foreign Direct Investment. In fact, the presence of Spanish companies in the country has greatly increased and many renown companies such as Inditex, Tous, Coleccion, Isolux and Anka have expanded their business to Kazakhstan. Business is booming in the country, and those who maintain friendly relations with the government will consequently benefit from its economic rise.
Could this be why countries such as Spain and Italy are so keen on handing Nazarbayev his opponents, or is it a coincidence?
While Madiyar Ablyazov, son of Muktar Ablyazov, is using social networks to raise awareness and make a plea for his father’s case, Nazarbayez continues his search around the world for ex functionaries of his government that fled overseas. With Nazarbayez doing the chasing, you can run, but hiding will not be an easy task.
Chiara Romano Bosch.